So the weather was quite different from the previous experience for the "landscape" at Hastings. Fantastically hot weather for all three days. In particular I remember Jimmy nearly passing out on his chair during the last day's judging due to the heat!
DAY 1: FLAMINGOS
So after my drubbing at the hands of the judges for my main landscape challenge I felt I needed to chance tack. I decided I would try and do my more normal approach, so at least I could regain some confidence.
What did I learn? Well painting animals live isn't easy. The flamingos refused to come to our side of the pond. We were effectively tethered to our painting stations for painting, although we could wander around to do sketches.
Also the flamingos rarely stayed still, and so I took the approach of trying to obtain typical poses, sometimes having to create a composite one from different birds after the original had strayed from the pose I was trying to capture. I then created a composition image from a collection of these pose sketches for which I then used in the painting. Thus the final result was not really an actual scene in front of me, but rather a montage of flamingo poses.
I was fairly pleased with the result and judges comments, and felt it was closer to a piece I might have done in normal circumstances.
DAY 2: ELEPHANTS
Pascal had us all try out an exercise aimed at improving our observation. followed by very quick expressive mark making. I found this fun and very instructive, and wanted to apply some of these principles to the main challenge.
I was really looking forward to elephants. I had done a picture of one just after school and loved it. I also though they might be easier than the flighty birds, but in the reality these elephants were highly mobile.
Following the masterclass earlier, I spent quite some time simply observing, and making sketches of the elephants. They were relatively cooperative for the phase, but after a while we mostly were treated to a view of their rear-ends, or would require a zoom lens as they stayed across the far side of the large enclosure (again we were effectively tethered to our stations during painting). As the heat of the day increased, or feeding time occurred, they would also completely disappear into their houses. So a lot of the painting phase was based up our early observation and sketching work.
Anyhow, having enjoyed Pascal's challenge, and wanting to take his advice, I started with a much faster approach. However, as with the main challenge at Hastings, I ran out of vision of how to proceed. I can't paint having no vision of what I need to do, and so again decided to see how my "normal" approach would work. I spent a good fraction of the remaining time on this approach, as my usual process is quite slow. In the end I felt I had managed to get a reasonable feeling for their bulk, skin texture and movement, and character, but felt that further improvement would take more time than I so it was a good time to stop.
I had about half an hour remaining, and Pascal thought I should revisit the initial canvas and the original approach. Now having at least something to submit, I felt more relaxed and could engage in a more spontaneous approach. I found I did enjoyed this process, which is alien to my normal way of working, but I was uncertain whether it met the criterion of the challenge as well as with my longer piece, However, persuaded by Pascal's, and other's, enthusiasm for the spontaneous piece, I decided to submit that work for judgement.
Do I think that was the right decision in retrospect?